Charcoal grills have specific needs and traits that gas barbecues don’t. Here are some essential charcoal grill accessories and supplies which every griller should be familiar with, even if he chooses not to use all of them.
Basic Charcoal Grill Accessories and Supplies
Obviously, charcoal grills require charcoal to burn – but even with this most basic of supplies, there are variations. Charcoal briquettes are common, convenient, and come in a uniform size. But they are made from inferior wood by-products and contain chemical binders or ignition agents.
Grilling purists prefer lump charcoal, which is simply made from charred chunks of hardwood. Lump charcoal can impart different flavors, depending on the type of wood used. Also, larger chunks – which burn hotter and longer – are best, but not all brands have enough big pieces in a bag. Grillers should experiment until they find a supplier they like.
Other basic accessories include grill lifters, for moving or swapping out dirty charcoal grills while they’re still hot, and charcoal holders, which make it easier to stack coals on one part of the grill for concentrated, targeted heating.
Advanced Charcoal Grill Accessories
One of the most common charcoal grill accessories beyond the basic supplies is a chimney starter. This allows grillers to ignite their coals quickly and cheaply, without resorting to pungent – and sometimes dangerous – lighter fluid.
Chimney starters work by stacking charcoal lumps or briquettes inside a metal cylinder. Then, a few pieces of paper or other tinder are lit below the coals, which quickly light each other from the bottom up. When all the charcoal is lit, it is poured onto the grill. Chimney starters are also useful for lighting new coals when cooking for long periods.
Electric starters are also available. These use an element that heats the coals directly until they burn on their own. But they are not as common as chimney starters, which can be taken camping, far from electrical outlets.
A barbecue thermometer is another good investment if one’s grill doesn’t already have a reliable thermometer built in. Controlling the level of heat takes more skill on a charcoal grill than a gas one, and specialized barbecue thermometers even indicate which temperature ranges are best for smoking or grilling.
Other Barbecue Accessories
Of course, there are plenty of barbecue accessories on the market, from rotisseries to specialized grates for cooking vegetables. But while these can be handy regardless of whether one owns a gas or charcoal grill, items like lump charcoal, chimney starters, and electric starters are exclusive to charcoal barbecues.